Zelensky relieves the popular head of the Ukrainian Army, Valeri Zaluzhni

After almost two years of war and after a barrage of rumors, the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, announced this Thursday that he has relieved the commander in chief, Valeri Zaluzhni, who enjoys great popularity in the country, for the current Commander of the Ground Forces, Oleksandr Sirski.

“Starting today, a new management team will take over the leadership of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” announced the president, who also assured that he had offered Zaluzhni “to continue being part of the team,” without giving more details. “I would appreciate his consent,” he added.

Minutes earlier, in a cryptic Telegram publication, Zelensky had said that he had met with Zaluzhni, whom he had thanked for “two years of defending Ukraine.” He also explained that they had talked “about the type of renewal the armed forces need.” “The time has come for that renewal,” he had said in a message accompanied by a photograph of both of them in which they pose smiling. It is the same image published by Zaluzhni on his Telegram channel, in which he has confirmed that he has had “an important and serious conversation” in which it has been decided to “change our approaches and strategy.”

“In the most difficult early days of the Great War, we resisted a vile and powerful enemy. We survive together. Our battle continues and changes every day. The tasks of 2022 are different from those of 2024. Therefore, we all must also change and adapt to the new realities. In order to win together,” the message reads.

Days of rumors

After days of intense speculation, Zelensky had already publicly expressed his intention to reorganize the high command of his armed forces to turn the tide of the campaign, with Zaluzhni in the crosshairs. Sirski was considered a possible successor to the position, as was the head of Ukrainian military intelligence, Kirilo Budánov. What began as a rumor and then became an open secret was confirmed by the head of state himself in an interview with Italian public television in which he admitted that he was considering the possibility of replacing Zaluzhni.

This is a risky move on the part of the president. According to polls published at the end of last year, the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces had the confidence of 88% of Ukrainians, while Zelensky’s popularity rate was then 62%. Zaluzhni is credited with the defense of kyiv in the first weeks of the war when Russian forces were marching towards the capital and the counterattack with which he regained lost territory.

When rumors of his dismissal began to circulate, both the Defense Ministry and Zelensky’s office quickly denied Zaluzhni’s imminent dismissal, but the denials failed to convince almost anyone, due in part to reports of the events published by various sources. prestigious Anglo-Saxon media that cited sources from the presidency and the Army.

According to some of these news items, Zelensky even informed Zaluzhni that he was fired and only backed down hours later when he realized the indignation that the leak was causing in public opinion.

Public frictions

The rift between Zelensky and Zaluzhni became evident last November after the general published an article in The Economist in which he recognized that the Ukrainian counteroffensive had stalled and that the war has entered a positional phase that may favor Russia.

The president did not support Zaluzhni’s theses and indirectly described them as defeatist. Then they clashed again over the issue of mobilizing new soldiers.

In the following months, the president and the head of the Army have exchanged public reproaches about the way in which the mobilization of new soldiers is being carried out. There are also those who maintain that Zelensky also sees General Zaluzhni as a possible political rival.

In the midst of rumors about his replacement, Zaluzhni again published a similar article on CNN in which he advocates adapting to the reality that Ukraine’s allies will send progressively fewer weapons and calls for more quickly developing a system of its own production that, In his opinion, it suffers from excessive regulations and monopolistic tendencies.

With information from EFE.

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